Gamma World Point Buy System

I’ve been interested lately in giving players the option of a less random method of character generation for Gamma World. Let me say first off though, I do understand the appeal of the random character generation, and I do believe that it adds to the game’s charm and fun. I think it’s a great mechanic, and if you want to keep it you should.

On the other hand, if you’re planning on a longer campaign for Gamma World, you want the players invested in their characters. One way to do that is to allow players to spend time designing their character, and making it their own rather than simply letting the dice make all the decisions as to what their character will look like. And of course, you’ll always have people who are turned off by Gamma World solely for its random character generation. This is for them, too.

Most of the random processes in Gamma World character creation can be simply bypassed by allowing players to make a choice. Instead of rolling for origins, let players pick them. Instead of rolling for that random third skill, again, let players pick. And… gosh, is that all the randomness there is to character generation? Well, there’s the little problem of ability scores. Those are semi-random as well.

Of course, D&D has allowed for a point buy system since (at least) 3rd edition, so why can’t we just implement that in Gamma World? The problem is that Gamma World origins assign two ability scores, so what we’re left with is not the right number of abilities to simply steal the D&D point buy system. Guess we’ll have to make our own. Below is what I came up with:

Every character starts with their origin ability scores (either an 18 & 16 or a 20) per the rules. Then, the character also has 8, 8, 8, 8, 6 to assign to the rest of their abilities. Drop the 6 if the origins granted an 18 and 16. Players have [a number of] points to increase those ability scores according to the following chart:

Note that players cannot use their points to increase their origin abilities. Those are locked in at 18 and 16 (or 20). Players also cannot use points to increase a non-origin ability above 16.

Optional rule: A player may decrease an 8 to a 6 for two extra points.

So, the question becomes, how many points do players get to make their characters? Generous DMs or those who plan on running a hard campaign would probably want to use 16 points. For a more gritty campaign, or if a DM simply wants to see lower “non-origin” ability scores will probably want to use 14 (or even 12) instead. Bear in mind that 16 points would give a character 12s in all non-origin abilities, which is just slightly above average for a roll of 3d6. For something closer to the average, 14 points is your goal.

That’s it! For veterans of D&D, point buy is old hat. For new players, it’s still fairly straighforward and simple, though it may warrant a bit more explanation. Either way, it’s a tried and true method of assigning non-random ability scores.

(And yes, I did omit the starting gear randomness. I have something in mind for that as well, but it will have to wait for another post.)

What do you think? Would you ever use non-random character generation in Gamma World? If you were allowed to make a non-random Gamma World character, would you be more likely to play the game?


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One Response to Gamma World Point Buy System

  1. Ian says:

    Dislaimer: I have never played Gamma World. I have looked over a few elements of it though, and I’ve played more 4e than is necessary.
    For the purposes of this I’ll call the PCs who get 18/16 type A, and those who get just the 20 type B.
    The balance of this point buy system depends largely upon the usefulness of secondary stats, and how many of them any individual PC can use. A’s get a boost if a PC can find a way to make use of up to 4 stats (because they can get 18-16-14-14 or 18-16-16). If only the second good stat matters, B’s are in a better position (because they can get 20-16).
    I can say this system would work fine for 4e.
    What I don’t like about any d20 point buy system is that they all push players towards min-maxing. As it becomes more and more expensive to get the higher stats (which are important for fun) PCs are less and less able to shore up their weaknesses. Which makes for lopsided characters. They are likewise unable to be well rounded jack-of-all-trade types, because it is prohibitively expensive to be decent at multiple things.

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